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Wittgenstein's Nephew: A Novel (Vintage International) Paperback – October 13, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
- Ulrike S. Rettig, Wellesley Coll., Mass.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Truth be told, the reader has to like Bernhard's style to get far with him. Bernhard's rephrasing of mundane thoughts and incidents may seem tedious at first to the uninitiated, but he turns the same phrases over and over as if assessing their content and structure. Is it better to write the thought *this* way? That way? Both? Neither? All? How many writers do *that*!?
Bernhard had a genuine love of words (which I share), phrases, sentences and the way they all form an imposing BLOCK that fills the pages (no paragraph breaks). It doesn't seem to matter much that his topics are mundane: I sense he knew that, despite the adventures most of us have, a large part of life is spent alone with our thoughts. Who was it that said, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Bernhard expands upon this bleak thought and comes up with art of very high order, indeed.
I have read all of Bernhard's work that has been translated into English, and I can recommend them all with 5 stars. I think this book (or perhaps _Concrete_) is the best starting point for those unfamiliar with this author. I especially love this book because the topic - friendship - is so touching and sensitively handled. Not a word seems wasted.
This book is considered a novel but it is very autobiographical in nature. The novel opens up in 1967 in a Viennese hospital. It is about the author's friendship with the nephew of the great philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Ludwig's nephew's name is Paul and he is considered a madman, a 'lunatic' in his day. He is also considered a great lover of opera and music, perhaps a bit of a dandy at times.
The story starts out as the author is recuperating in a hospital that has two pavilions, one for pulmonary patients and one for psychiatric patients. The author is in the pulmonary wing. He has just had a huge tumor removed from his thoracic region and is expected to die. Paul Wittgenstein is in the psychiatric unit for one of his regular stays. He suffers from an unnamed ailment but his relatives find him a burden and suspect he is harmful to others so they have him committed. The author is no friend of psychiatry. He states "Psychiatrists are the real demons of our age, going about their business with impunity and constrained by neither law nor conscience."
Paul Wittgenstein was born to great wealth and prestige but used up all his money and now lives on the hand-outs of family and friends. He has a loyal wife who stands by him through thick and thin.Read more ›
The book holds to no fixed plot, but is a series of discursive episodes about the author and his friend engaged in various episodes: meeting in a hospital, attending the opera, visiting a once-cosmopolitan friend now living in the remote rural lands of Austria, frequenting the same literary clubs and cafes, and many similar tales.
Every vignette is a jewel, and they are plenty, but few are about Paul directly, or reveal Thomas's feelings explicitly. Each time Bernhard begins talking directly about Paul, or his inner feelings, he diverts attention quickly to another story. His heart is so obviously broken he cannot bear to talk about his friend, but only their good times together. Still, it is abundantly clear from his story-telling, Thomas loves Paul like a brother, truly a "best friend."
Paul was a brilliant man, like his famous uncle Ludwig, the philosopher, and musically talented, like another Paul Wittgenstein (Ludwig's brother, the pianist) but also emotionally unstable, and financially irresponsible. After a late-life divorce, in his usual ill health, Bernhard describes Paul crying, in his dark and empty apartment, in rough condition despite its prime city location, but tells us he left Paul alone in his misery, to go sit in the park. Thomas cannot face his emotions at all. He cannot express himself this way, and to this day it eats him up inside.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really...I don't know...this is an extraordinarily well-written book...smart...observant...philosophical...no laughs, but not without some very sharp humor. Read morePublished 4 months ago by billofwrites
chewy read, and a lot to learn - personalisaton of the characters really well done - reads in an idiosyncratic way Bernard made his own - a form of writing that is Austrian to its... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Leslie Gardner
Wittgenstein's nephew was above all my expectations. Wonderful!!Published 16 months ago by Leontien
Possibly a life-changing book, a great introduction to a difficult and rewarding author, master.Published 17 months ago by J. Goins
A longue monologue by Bernhard himself about his former best friend Paul Wittgenstein, passed away a few years earlier, and cousin of the famous philosopher Ludwig. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Marc L
How do you rate a book that you find just as irritating and annoying as you do riveting and fascinating? I gave it 5 stars because I think this book needs to be read. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Mario Igrec
This is a book about the isolation of the rational mind. Isolation clings to the central characters, who are both marginalized after their own fashion. Read morePublished on March 11, 2013 by Freelancer Frank
Bernhard does a good job of showing how his friend's and his own physical/psychological illnesses and their disgust with Austria in general resonate and reflect off of each other. Read morePublished on February 16, 2012 by jafrank
I seem to be running against the current here; in part I think there are cultural factors at work.
I decided to read Bernhard because of his mention at several points in... Read more